How to Determine if Something is Ethical

Posted on October 31, 2019

Making ethical decisions can be a real head-scratcher. There are so many grey areas to consider, and such a wide spectrum of choices. However, there are usually around seven steps to determine if something is ethical or not: 1) take time to ponder the issue; 2) make your goals clear; 3) get facts straight; 4) think of all the options; 5) ponder the consequences; 6) make the decision; 7) keep a close watch on what unfolds and adapt your decision if something goes wrong. All these steps will be explained in detail in the following paragraphs.

Take time to ponder the issue

The worst thing to do when making a decision on an ethical issue is to rush. One needs to be patient, to stop, and to think deeply about the conundrum at hand. Remember, there are many shades to ethics, and being stubborn or closed-minded will not help in reaching an appropriate decision (Making Ethical Decisions: A 7-Step Path).

Make your goals clear

To figure out an ethical decision, you have to understand your short-term and long-term goals. According to the University of California San Diego, “Determine which of your many wants and “don’t wants” affected by the decision are the most important. The big danger is that decisions that fulfill immediate wants and needs can prevent the achievement of our more important life goals” (Making Ethical Decisions: A 7-Step Path). In turn, if the decision is for someone else, it is best to comprehend the goals of that person.

Get the facts straight

When investigating and researching a certain topic, make sure you look at all the angles and at many different sources of information. You can look through fact-checking websites. However, even these sites can be biased and can report on data that has been tampered with. Therefore, it is best to seriously look into various avenues of information to determine the exact nature of an issue (Making Ethical Decisions: A 7-Step Path). For example, if you wonder about using an essay writing service that assists students with their papers, it is important to figure out what professors at your college think about consulting professional writers.

Think of all the options

Just like a game of chess, you often have to consider the different possibilities of a position before making a move. According to Chron, “…brainstorm as many options as you can think of, even the ones you aren’t entirely sure will work. Talk with a trusted confidante – someone who knows you well and shares your values – and see if you haven’t overlooked any possibilities” (Wroblewski, M.T). As a basic rule, you should think of at least three different options.

Ponder the consequences

When seeing whether or not any of the options have consequences, you can use these six ethical qualities to evaluate them:

1) Trustworthy (acting with integrity, honest, consistent)
2) Respectful (tolerant, considerate, well-mannered)
3) Responsible (self-disciplined, not hasty, accountable for actions)
4) Fair (open-minded, sharing, impartial)
5) Caring (showing gratitude, forgiving, compassionate)
6) Neighborly (cooperating, good citizen, law-abiding)
(Making Ethical Decisions: Core Ethical Values)

Make the decision

By now, the choice might be fairly clear. However, if your mind is still muddy about the correct choice:
1) Talk to respected colleagues or friends about the decision.
2) Think of one of your idols who has strong moral sense, and ask yourself what he or she would do in this situation.
3) Determine whether or not you would be proud and comfortable with making a certain decision.
4) Refer back to the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would want to be treated.
(Making Ethical Decisions: A 7-Step Path)

Monitor and adapt

Once you have made the ethical decision, keep a close watch on how things roll out. If after the solution was provided and problems crop up, you can adapt your choice to counteract the issues. Being flexible is also a part of being ethical.

Making tough ethical decisions is no joke. We are often faced with crossroads where principles are put into question. However, there is a 7-step way to determine if you have made the correct choice: 1) stop and ponder the issue; 2) clarify the goals; 3) gather all the facts you need; 4) contemplate all of the options; 5) think about the consequences; 6) choose a decision; 7) monitor and adapt to the process after the choice has been made. Going through these stages, you can be almost entirely certain that you have made the best ethical choice possible.

Works Cited
Making Ethical Decisions: A 7-Step Path,
Wroblewski, M.T. “7 Guidelines for Making Ethical Decisions.” Small Business –,, 12 Mar. 2019,
Making Ethical Decisions: Core Ethical Values,

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